opportunities were an everyday occurrence during the 76th
Legislative Assembly. Many Senate bills designed to improve
Oregonís business environment, and to encourage growth in
private sector jobs, were not given the opportunity for a
disappointing, and more than a little upsetting, to watch
the Democrat Senate leadership daily refuse to address the
major causes of our citizensí plight. Oregon is a national
leader in home mortgage foreclosures, our annual per capita
income trails the national average by more than $3,500, our
functional unemployment remains above 20 percent and 750
thousand Oregonians are using food stamps. Yet Senate
leadership flatly refused to even hold hearings on bills
that were thoughtfully designed to promote growth in private
instance, Oregonís 180 state agencies have adopted more than
11,000 administrative rules. These rules modify and exert
the full force of state laws. The agencies adopt new rules,
or edit existing rules, at the rate of more than 9,500 each
year. Our businesses, and our private sector jobs, are being
systematically regulated out of existence. It is virtually
impossible for any business to live within the boundaries
that this ever-changing maze of regulatory intrusions visits
on our lives.
would have placed a two year moratorium on all non-essential
rule making, and SJR 32 would have referred a measure to the
people that would create legislative oversight on rule
making. Both bills were introduced in the Senate to
eliminate obstacles that prevent job creation and both bills
died in committee.
poignant example, last month the Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality adopted new water quality standards.
Businesses, farmers and ranchers have virtually no chance of
being able to comply with these stringent new requirements
that were adopted by administrative rule without either a
vote of the people or of the Legislature. The new standards
are ten times stricter than anywhere else on the planet.
legislators worked with Governor Kitzhaberís office, state
agencies, representatives of agriculture and Department of
Justice attorneys to negotiate and carefully draft a bill
designed to help our farmers and ranchers comply with the
terms of the new rules. HB 3613 passed the House with good
bipartisan support. Unfortunately, at the request of
environmental preservationists, amendments were adopted in
the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
that completely destroyed the purpose of the bill.
of us who are strong advocates for our agricultural
industries worked until the last day of the session to move
the bill in its original form to the Senate floor for a
vote. We knew that the bill had broad bipartisan support in
the Senate and that Governor Kitzhaber had said that he
would sign the bill. Committee Chair Dingfelder and Senate
President Courtney effectively blocked all efforts, and HB
3613 died in committee.
Oregonís one-of-a-kind land use laws are a major impediment
to businesses looking to locate in Oregon. SB 476 would have
empowered local communities to suspend the bureaucratic red
tape and costly paper work required to navigate the
draconian land use process for any prospective employer that
offered to create ten or more family wage jobs. This bill
died in committee without a hearing when the Senate
leadership, once again, bowed to the advocates of strict
government control of the use of private land.
Oregonís timber based industries have been decimated by both
federal and state harvest restrictions. Three fourths of our
timber mills are closed down, and more than 30,000 family
wages jobs are destroyed. SB 460 and SB 464 would have ended
the current artificially low timber harvests on state owned
forests, and required diseased areas of state forests to be
harvested. These two bills would have created more than
4,300 jobs, as well as $100 million in state and local
government revenue. Both bills died in committee without
hearings when Senate leadership bowed to the will of
cost of health care insurance premiums has been increasing
at about four times the rate of increase in the consumer
price index and more than three times faster than our growth
in per capita income. One of the primary cost drivers for
medical insurance is Oregonís failure to enact a limit on
non-economic damages in medical liability lawsuits.
Physicians must practice defensive medicine both to avoid
lawsuits and to maintain their medical liability insurance.
The annual national cost of that defensive medicine exceeds
would have asked the people of Oregon to establish fair
limits on non-economic damages awarded in civil medical
liability suits. The bill would not have limited any award
for actual economic damages that result from a medical
mistake or omission. Senate leadership, once again, bowed to
the pressure from plaintiff attorneys and denied the bill a
Oregonís Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) was
designed for both the employer and the employee to
contribute 6 percent of the employee salary to the PERS
trust fund. Over the years public employee union contract
bargaining has resulted in public employers paying both the
employer and the employee contributions for as many as 70
percent of public employees. The Fund receives about 30
percent of its income from those employer and employee
contributions, and about 70 percent from investment earnings
from the PERS Trust Fund.
incurred investment losses of about 30 percent totaling $18
billion during the 2007-2008 economic crash. The Systemís
unfunded liabilities remain at more than $13.5 billion
resulting in the requirement for $1.1 billion in higher
employer contributions for the 2011-13 budget periods. The
total Oregon taxpayer contribution will be $2 billion.
Actuaries project that nearly a billion dollars additional
will be required for the 2013-15 budget periods. The total
Oregon taxpayer contribution will approach $3 billion.
Moreover, that level of taxpayer contribution will likely be
required in each two year budget period, for at least a
decade. Every additional dollar spent to fund PERS is a
dollar that cannot be used to fund education, human services
and public safety.
would have changed the law to eliminate the 6% contribution
employees are required to make to their retirement accounts.
Eliminating the 6 percent ďpick-upĒ would have saved at
least $750 million during the 2011-13 budget periods alone.
It would have reduced the long term PERS liability by
several billion dollars. The bill was heavily opposed by the
public employee unions and the Senate leadership did not
allow the bill the courtesy of a hearing.
are only a few of the bills that were virtually ignored by
Senate majority leadership. Many will be introduced again
during next Februaryís legislative session. We can only hope
that the Democrat controlled Senate leadership will study
the issues and become more in tune with the needs of
Please remember, if we do not stand up
for rural OregonÖ no one will.